Can (any) human cells learn?

Can (any) human cells learn?

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I'm not talking about single celled organisms, but actual cells in your body. Is there any evidence that they can learn to, say, navigate an environment or avoid an aversive stimulus like an animal could? Is their behaviour understood well enough to say that it's entirely mechanistic, or are there things we still don't know?

For this specific question, let's divide the cells into two categories:

Cells that rarely "navigate" are the cells that are connected to give the tissue its mechanical properties. How do these avoid an "adverse stimulus"? Well, they don't avoid it. But if that stimulus "harms" cells they react in some way:

  • if the cell is destructed by the pathogen, it will release chemical compounds that have chemotactic properties and attract specialized cells.
  • if the pathogen has intracellular tropism, the cell may release some chemical compounds (see interferon) to "alert" other cells that something is wrong. Most cells can also present antigens on their surface.
  • there are also some stimuli which change cellular life cycle turning cells into cancerous cells. These cells can gain excretory properties and produce substances that destroy intercellular jonctions. This is how metastases occur.

Cells that "navigate" are the blood cells. White blood cells respond to different kind of stimuli (chemical) in two ways: either they are attracted (by inflammatory cytokines for example) either they are repelled. Macrophages are attracted by cytokines released when a pathogen agent triggers inflammatory response. They "ingest" that pathogen through phagocytosis and expose some parts of it (the antigens) on their surface receptors. This stimulates lymphocytes which process that antigen and decide if it is self or non-self. If it is non-self, they stimulate proliferation of specialized cells against that antigen. Another type of blood cells, the platelets, although they have no nucleus, have interesting properties: they can adhere to the broken endothelium where they change shape and start to produce different chemical mediators.

Read more on:

  • Wikipedia contributors, "Chemotaxis," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 28, 2014).
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Interferon," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 28, 2014).
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Adaptive immune system," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 28, 2014).
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Platelet," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 28, 2014).

What Color Are Our Cells? Kids' Biology Questions Answered

During a live online chat dubbed "Cell Day," scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently fielded questions from middle- and high-school students across the country about the cell and careers in research. Here's a sampling of the questions and answers.

How many different types of cells are there?

Your body contains trillions of cells, organized into more than 200 major types.

Do all cells have the same structure?

No. Different cells have different functions and different sizes and shapes. For example, red blood cells are round in the normal state, while nerve cells are very elongated. Some bacterial cells have flagella for movement, some cells are large (such as mammalian egg cells), and others are much smaller (such as sperm cells).

Are cells specific colors or can they be any color?

In nature, most cells are transparent and without color. Animal cells that have a lot of iron, like red blood cells, are deep red. Cells that contain the substance melanin are often brown. It is the absence of melanin that makes eyes blue. Scientists have tricks for making different parts of cells glow with fluorescent dyes. These colors are artificial, but beautiful.

If cells make up us, what makes up cells?

Cells are made of organic molecules, such as lipids, carbohydrates, nucleotides and amino acids. The cell uses chemical energy to make polymers of these molecules, for example to make DNA and RNA strands from nucleotides and proteins from amino acids. Cells also contain inorganic molecules, such as salt and metals in small amounts, and lots of water, too.

Is it possible for an animal cell to "spring a leak" and, if so, how would they repair themselves?

Cells need to regulate the passage of molecules into and out of the cell. This process is normally under tight control. However, there can be circumstances that cause the cell to become "leaky" (e.g., disruption of the balance in the concentration of molecules inside and outside the cell). Some of these problems can be corrected by the cell, but too much leakage is fatal.

How long do cells live?

It depends. The cells that line your digestive system turn over very rapidly. Brain cells last a very long time. In fact, scientists thought that once our brain finished growing, the cells we start with are the only ones we'll ever have. Over the past few years, scientists have figured out that brain cells do get replaced. This has changed the way we think about the potential of the brain to recover from some kinds of injuries or illnesses.

If an organism dies, do all of its cells immediately die too?

No, some cells such as those in hair cells live on for a while after a person dies. Other cells that continue include fingernail cells.

Why is exercise good for your cells?

Exercise is good for your cells and your tissues because it helps to "train" them so they perform better. For example, muscle cells will produce their energy molecules better and lung cells will be able to use oxygen more efficiently. Exercise also is good for your health because it increases the release of molecules that will boost your body's immune system.

Do my cells think?

Individual cells don't "think" in the way our complete brains think. Individual cells do react to their surroundings and change their behaviors according to programs set up in their genes, but that's not really thinking. That requires the complex and specially organized function of hundreds of billions of nerve cells in the brain.

How do scientists study cells when they are so small?

Cells are not really that small for modern research. We actually have instruments to study individual molecules and atoms. Typically, cells range in size from 10 to 300 microns (1 micron is one millionth of a meter). Molecules, which are also studied in biology, are a few billionths of a meter in size. Cells are studied with light microscopes and other instruments, particularly in combination with molecules that cause cells to light up.

Why do we learn about cells?

When you think about the fact that you started out as a single cell, why wouldn't you want to learn about how cells divide, let you do your favorite things, contribute to disease and aid the development of treatments or cures that you one day may need! By understanding how cells work, we can better understand what happens when things go wrong.

What is your favorite cell?

My favorite cell is the neuron. Neurons have many different shapes and sizes some are over 3 feet long! Neurons are essential for thinking and all our senses. We know a lot about how neurons work, but I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding our understanding of the senses, how we think and how nerve cells respond to drugs.

What's your favorite part about biology?

My favorite part of biology is understanding how all these small machines work together to create an organism. Biology is a complex and intricate dance of components. I became a cell biologist when I looked down the microscope in the 6th grade!

This Inside Life Science article was provided to LiveScience in cooperation with the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Institute for Creation Research

Craig Venter, who led the first privately funded sequencing of the human genome, has for fifteen years been spearheading a team effort to make "synthetic life." He announced victory on May 20, 2010, and the research was published online in the journal Science. This is considered a significant breakthrough, as for the first time scientists claim to have created a "living organism."

What did they actually accomplish and do their results really raise "profound questions about the essence of life," as one news report stated? 1

What Venter's company achieved was a technical feat that does not live up to its headlines. The team of scientists used machines to synthesize DNA from scratch. However, the particular DNA sequence they manufactured was an exact copy of pre-existing DNA from a living strain of bacteria.

The study authors stated, "This project was critically dependent on the accuracy of these [original bacterial] sequences." This is because even a slight error could ruin the resulting cell. They discovered this firsthand, when their "success was thwarted for many weeks by a single base pair deletion in the essential gene dnaA." 2 Some portions, however, tolerated errors with no observed effects.

Once they accurately copied the exact required sequence of 582,970 DNA base pairs and then precisely synthesized the DNA itself--in shorter segments that were then added together--the synthesized genome was transferred to a type of yeast that is commonly used in laboratories. These yeast cells can accurately copy long sequences of DNA. So far, no human machine can do this. Yeast also has enzymes that maintain DNA integrity.

Finally, the researchers transferred the laboratory-synthesized, yeast-cloned DNA into a living bacterium that had its own DNA removed. The resulting cell grew and multiplied successfully in the lab.

So, after millions of dollars and man-hours, pre-existing information was copied from the realm of biology onto computers, and then placed back into the living world by purposefully manipulating both man-made and cellular machine systems. Thus, the resulting cell was not wholly synthetic--only its DNA was. But even that was an exact copy of an already functioning bacterial genome.

While this was a technical achievement of high rank, the scientists did not create a bacterial cell from scratch. Actually, they stated that "we refer to such a cell controlled by a genome assembled from chemically synthesized pieces of DNA as a 'synthetic cell', even though the cytoplasm of the recipient cell is not synthetic." 2 And that cytoplasm, not to mention the protective cell wall, already has the machines required for cellular tasks like carrying sugars, copying DNA, removing wastes, converting energy, regulating production speeds, communicating with the environment, and so on.

There is no biblical mandate that precludes mankind from attempting to build bacteria. 3 In fact, it could serve at least two good purposes. First, the biotechniques that these scientists pioneered could improve medical technology. Second, by encountering the specificity with which these bacterial cells are constructed, investigators can get a closer look at the genius of the real Architect, whether or not He is acknowledged. In light of what the Lord Jesus did in creating a whole, reproducing cell without a reference template, what little they achieved nevertheless "was complicated and required many quality control steps." 2

This research verifies that the Creator's handiwork is fabulous. If a team of brilliant scientists only succeeded in copying information from a germ to a computer and back to a germ, then the Originator of that information must be far more brilliant and worthy of acclaim.

  1. Cookson, C. Scientists create a living organism. Financial Times. Posted on May 20, 2010, accessed May 20, 2010.
  2. Gibson, D. G. et al. Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome. Science Express. Published online May 20, 2010.
  3. Like plants, bacteria do not possess the "breath of life." See Morris, J. 1991. Are Plants Alive?Acts & Facts. 20: (9).

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Thomas, B. 2010. Have Scientists Created a Living Cell? Acts & Facts. 39 (7): 17.

No formal prerequisites are required however a basic understanding of biology may be useful.

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About this course

Are you preparing for a health-related career, or planning to study in the health sciences? Perhaps you're just keen to learn more about the wonders of the human body? Our bodies are amazing but complex biological machines. This course will provide you with an outstanding foundation of knowledge in human anatomy and physiology.

You will gain a broad understanding of the relationships between normal structure and function in human cells and tissues, both in health and disease. The properties of the four main types of tissue in the body - epithelial, connective, muscular and nervous - will also be clearly explained.

The course employs a variety of engaging learning methods, including short videos, animations, interactive activities and integrated quizzes to guide you through key concepts, and make learning relevant.

In London on 13 and 14 October, 2016, a collaborative community of world-leading scientists met and discussed how to build a Human Cell Atlas—a collection of maps that will describe and define the cellular basis of health and disease.

Cells are the most fundamental unit of life, yet we know surprisingly little about them. They vary enormously within the body, and express different sets of genes. Without maps of different cell types and where they are located in the body, we cannot describe all their functions and understand the biological networks that direct their activities.

A complete Human Cell Atlas would give us a unique ID card for each cell type, a three-dimensional map of how cell types work together to form tissues, knowledge of how all body systems are connected, and insights into how changes in the map underlie health and disease. It would allow us to identify which genes associated with disease are active in our bodies and where, and analyze the regulatory mechanisms that govern the production of different cell types.

This has been a key challenge in biology for more than 150 years. New tools such as single-cell genomics have put it within reach. It is an ambitious but achievable goal, and requires an international community of biologists, clinicians, technologists, physicists, computational scientists, software engineers, and mathematicians.

A White Paper, openly available for download, provides an overview of the effort our framework for the first draft of the atlas descriptions of the technology and data analysis tools available to build the atlas an introduction to the Data Coordination Platform that will host the data for researchers worldwide a deeper look at biological systems we plan to explore and map and details on the organization and governance of the HCA consortium and its relationships to the public (including ethical considerations regarding organ and tissue donors) and to funding support.

Cell Theory

While observing dead cork samples with a crude lens, Robert Hooke identified and named ?cells.? He thought that the small, simple units looked like the bare prison cells of his time, and the name cell stuck. His work launched a new frontier in scientific exploration that led to modern cell theory:

  • All living things are made of cells.
  • Cells are the basic units of structure and function in all living things.
  • All cells come from the reproduction of existing cells.

Components of a Cell and their Functions

Cell Membrane

The outermost covering of a cell is called the cell membrane. The cell membrane acts like a traffic policeman that regulates entry and exit of substances, that is, ions and solutes. This helps in regulating the internal cell balance.

Cell Wall

The outermost covering of a plant cell is called the cell wall. It is made up of cellulose, and it helps provide mechanical support to the cell. It surrounds the cell membrane and helps maintain the pressure within the cell.


The centrosome is a part of the animal cell. An animal cell may contain one or two centrosomes that help in mitosis.


Chloroplasts are green-colored plastids that are plant cell parts. They help in production of food in the presence of sunlight by photosynthesis.


These are also plant cell organelles that have different colors in different cells. They contain xanthophyll and carotene that helps give the flowers and fruits their color.


The mixture of water and soluble organic and inorganic compounds is called the cytoplasm. Most of the parts of a cell are suspended in the cytoplasm. All the metabolic functions and activities of an animal cell takes place here.

Endoplasmic Reticulum

The tubular structures that are found near the nucleus and help provide support to both plant and animal cells is called the endoplasmic reticulum. There are two types of endoplasmic reticulum, the smooth reticulum without the attached ribosomes and rough endoplasmic reticulum with the attached ribosomes.

Golgi Bodies

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The golgi apparatus or bodies are flat vesicular structures that are stacked one above the other. They secrete and store hormones and enzymes that help in transportation out of the cell.


These are plant cell organelles that are a type of colorless plastid and help in the storage of starch.


This part of an animal cell that is a membranous sac. It is part of the golgi apparatus that contains different enzymes. It helps in intracellular digestion and in the elimination of foreign substances. They are also known as the ‘suicide sacs’ because if one of them bursts, the entire cell will be destroyed.


The mitochondria has two layers of membrane, of which, the inner membrane is folded to form cristae. It is the powerhouse of the cell where ATP is generated by cellular respiration.

Nuclear Membrane

The covering of the nucleus is the nuclear membrane. It has many pores that aid in the transport of substances.


The nucleoulus contains the RNA and sends out the RNS to ribosomes along with the blueprints of the protein to be synthesized.


The dense fluid that contains chromatin fibers made up of DNA is called nucleoplasm. The chromatin fibers undergo a change in structure after cell division and are called chromosomes. This chromosome contains the hereditary information of genes.


The brain of a cell, the cell nucleus, controls all the functions occurring in the cell. It contains the blueprint of life, that is, DNA.


The part of a cell that contains RNA that helps in protein synthesis.


The large and abundant vesicle of a plant cell is called a vacuole. It contains fluids and helps in storage of substances, building material, and water.

The cell wall, central vacuole, and chloroplasts are the distinguishing parts of a plant and animal cell. The smallest unit of life is indeed the most important for sustenance of life!

Related Posts

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The controversy over stem cell research is mainly centered in the creation and/or destruction of human embryos. Read on to know more.


Reviewed by Laylonda Maines, Affiliate Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 3/26/21, updated 4/22/21

I thought it was comprehensive. I teach Anatomy &amp Physiology and the textbook gets into enough detail for my Human Biology class. Personally, I would have liked to have more on diseases. read more

Reviewed by Laylonda Maines, Affiliate Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 3/26/21, updated 4/22/21

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

I thought it was comprehensive. I teach Anatomy & Physiology and the textbook gets into enough detail for my Human Biology class. Personally, I would have liked to have more on diseases.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

I did not see any inaccuracies.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

I like how that the author highlights the careers from the specific organ system. The information seemed pretty up-to-date.

I thought the textbook was really clear and simplistic. I believe it would be easy for a student to follow along.

All of the topics had same formatting and they were aligned. I did not see any issues with consistency.

I like that it is spaced out well. I like the bold words, pictures, videos, tables, etc. I believe a student could follow along and read it without difficulties. The Human Biology course that I teach mostly consists of non majors so that is my lens.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

I like the way it is organized within the topics. I would move immune system up and reproductive to the end with nervous and special senses. I tend to do digestive and urinary together so I would have them by each other. In my current textbook, I have to jump around so that is not an issue for me.

I like the set up. It is great that you can click on the topic and go straight to the section. The images (pictures and tables) are good quality.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I did not see any errors. It is well-structured and easy to follow.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

I did not see many references to difference cultures, but there were no offenses. There was a table on blood typing regarding ethnic groups and percentages. I am not going to rate lower because I do not see many cultural references in my current textbook either. I did like the everyday connections.

I really like that there were questions (multiple choice and short answer) with solutions inside of the text. You could make an assignment from these questions or use for active learning purposes. Also, all of the video links that I clicked on worked and they were very informative. I did not try to use the QR codes. I really liked that it was simple, clear, and aligned well. It seemed to be accessible and could be used with screen readers. I would verify with your institution. I really liked that there were Art Connections (describes some of the more complex illustrations and concepts), Careers in Action (exactly what it sounds like), and there were some tutorials available. I do try to relate to everyday or real life and this textbook does do that. I may need to add a few more examples. Ultimately, I really liked the OpenStax textbook and I would like to adopt it. I could use "as is" or maybe add in specific diseases for each organ system. Unfortunately, I use other resources with my textbook that I would still need to have. If you are able to collaborate with someone, you could make your own active learning assignments, assessments, etc. This could be a great option that is free for the student and you do not have to make changes when a new edition comes out.

Reviewed by Pamela Thinesen, Instructor, Minnesota State on 6/15/19

Would like to see even a short section on human evolution. As well, I don't see coverage of integumentary system or development. Lymphatic system is with immune system, which is fine but perhaps change title for Ch 20 to "Immune System and. read more

Reviewed by Pamela Thinesen, Instructor, Minnesota State on 6/15/19

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

Would like to see even a short section on human evolution. As well, I don't see coverage of integumentary system or development. Lymphatic system is with immune system, which is fine but perhaps change title for Ch 20 to "Immune System and Lymphatic System."

Content Accuracy rating: 5

I found no errors or bias.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

I believe the text is up-to-date and written in a way that prevents need for numerous updates.

The text is well-written, as or more understandable than the many other texts I've used.

I suggest incorporating a section on human evolution, perhaps with the introductory chapter. Also development with the Reproductive System. Endocrine System is the proper name for the "hormones" chapter. Also consider adding "Lymphatic System" to the title for Ch 20 ("Immune System and Lymphatic System"). As above, would also like to see a chapter on the Integumentary System.

See comments under the "Consistency" section.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

Would like to see a short section on human evolution and humans' interconnections with other species. As well, I don't see coverage of integumentary system or development. Lymphatic system is with immune system, which is fine, but perhaps change title of Ch 20 to "Immune System and Lymphatic System." Ch 11 is titled "Hormones." Perhaps change that to "Endocrine System (Hormones)."

Found no problems with navigation or links.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I did not find any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The text is not culturally insensitive, but I don't see examples that are inclusive of variety of races, ethnicities, gender identity (and genetics). A section on human evolution and/or inheritance/genetics could make the text more inclusive.

Are there more online interactive materials? Add development to "Reproductive Systems" unit? Page numbering needs updating -- e.g., TOC says Immune System starts on p. 401, while it actually starts on p. 409.

Reviewed by Jonathan Christie, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 5/21/19

I found the book to be comprehensive over the topics normally covered in a one-semester human biology class for certain allied health majors such as medical assistant. This book could also serve as a "basic science" text for a science class that. read more

Reviewed by Jonathan Christie, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 5/21/19

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

I found the book to be comprehensive over the topics normally covered in a one-semester human biology class for certain allied health majors such as medical assistant. This book could also serve as a "basic science" text for a science class that also on human biology. The book covers basic introductory cell biology concepts such as metabolism, and cell division and then does a system-by-system discussion of the human body. The book includes a glossary in each chapter and an overall index. I like that the index does topics by both page number as well as "module number" for those who use this book in modules, such as in an online environment. My only criticism of the index in this way is the modules are printed in the same line and font as the page number, making it somewhat harder to see the page number if that's what you're looking for. Perhaps a different font or bolding might help this. One thing to note is this text is really a lecture-only text. If you need a text that can also be used for lab work such as labeling bones or muscles, for example, this text would not have the anatomical detail for that kind of use. You would need to supplement this book if you wished to use it in a lab-based setting.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

I found the book accurate in most of the topics I looked at. Topics that most of us as teachers would likely cover are accurate in what they present and at the level this book targets. My reason for only giving it a three is partly because I didn't read every topic in depth, so I can't guarantee how accurate certain topics may be. Also, accuracy depends somewhat on the level of detail and discussion, and because that varies by chapter, it's hard to pinpoint how accurate a paragraph would be if the topic was elaborated on a bit more. Here's an example from the urinary system chapter: "GFR is regulated by multiple mechanisms and is an important indicator of kidney function." Is that accurate at face value? Yes. However, you could argue it's not a complete answer-- e.g., why is it important? Why mechanisms are there? -- and so it's a bit hard to qualify the overall accuracy if the statements are sometimes a big vague.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

For this level of class, I don't think being "up-to-date" is necessarily the most critical of discussions. The basic physiology and anatomy of the human body presented here should be fine for most teachers in the foreseeable future. Any areas that might need adjustment over time, such as the genetics topics, can easily be changed out due to the modular nature of the book. The topics (chapters) are broken down into discrete modules so a teacher could alter or substitute a module to match current updates or to stress an aspect of that topic that isn't part of the current text. For my classes, I could see myself adding a module in the immunity section over allergies and tolerance and in the genetics section on epigenetics.

Writing in clear and most science jargon is reduced to a minimum. Examples and analogies are relevant to students and I enjoyed the writing regarding "real life" medical careers and equipment, such as what an AED is for and how it relates back to the heart section. Detracting from the writing is detail level, inconsistent bolding of words, and references in the text that should either have a picture to illustrate what's being talked about. For example, in the vestibular module of the special senses unit, the semi-circular canals are the only bolded word. Why not otoliths or utricle and saccule? Also, while the action of the vestibular system is described quite well, there is not diagram or animation link to show how these structure work to provide balance. If I were a visual learner, a picture would really help me here.

As alluded to above, the book seems inconsistent in level of detail and the use of diagram. I understand this book was an amalgam of three different texts, so a little disjointedness is expected and visible in the text. Some modules are illustrated well and somewhat detailed while others have one image only over a two-page section. The sections dealing with cell biology (the first part) are more unified as a whole in format than the anatomy sections. The anatomy sections vary considerably. For example, the skeletal system module is quite good (at least for my class use). The reproductive system, by contrast, seem weak and lacks the images and clarity of the skeletal. As stated in another review, there are differences in how things are referenced in the text and how words are chosen to bold (or not), and other subtle editing choices. Overall, though, I don't think a student would find each module distracting just the overall book as a whole if one were to read it from cover-to-cover.

Each chapter and its modules are more-or-less self explanatory and can moved/edited/replaced without disturbing the overall book. For my class, I could see myself re-ordering the topics and having students still use the book well without having to go back-and-forth to reference ideas. The use of topic summaries, problem sets, and sub-topics is done in a way that enable modularity.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The topics are in a logical order and modules follow a structure of: overall purpose --> important anatomy --> function of that anatomy --> regulation of those organs --> applications & careers that relate. I found this flow easy to use and students would find it fitting their expectations. While I disagree somewhat on the placement of topics within the whole book--for example, I would skeletal system earlier in the book--I can't fault the choices made by the author. The modularity makes it possible to rearrange the topics if you found students who insist on "going in order."

Due to the mixture of different books as the source for this one, I did find the images and charts differed enough in topics to be noticeable. Some diagrams were entire pages while others were small. Some had narrative captions of (excessive) length while others were just labels. While it didn't confuse me in terms of what was being shown, it did cause me to pause and ask if the pictures were the right ones in the right place or if others could have been better choices.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

No grammatical errors that were noticeable. There were some editorial choices (such as using abbreviations for some words but not others) that could be more consistent. In my copy, there were some format decisions (such as paragraph length, picture layout, and sentence structure) that, although not wrong, did seem to vary enough to notice the lack of pattern.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

I didn't find anything to offend.

Overall, I liked the book and think it's a good choice for those of us teaching the "one-off" basic bio classes that are to be simpler than the majors' level of A&P but more inclusive than general biology. I especially enjoy this book's teaching of basic science concepts in the beginning for those classes of mine that require basic science skills in addition to human biology.

Reviewed by Noel Boaz, Professor of Anatomy, Emory and Henry College, School of Health Sciences on 3/9/19

This textbook is organized primarily by systems and it covers all 11 in 20 chapters (even though the Table of Contents only lists 19). Five chapters are predominantly discipline- or topic-focused: Chapter 1 on the Scientific Method, Chapter 2 on. read more

Reviewed by Noel Boaz, Professor of Anatomy, Emory and Henry College, School of Health Sciences on 3/9/19

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

This textbook is organized primarily by systems and it covers all 11 in 20 chapters (even though the Table of Contents only lists 19). Five chapters are predominantly discipline- or topic-focused: Chapter 1 on the Scientific Method, Chapter 2 on Chemistry and Life, Chapter 4 on DNA and Gene Expression, Chapter 6 on Energy Considerations, and Chapter 13 on Mitosis and Meiosis. Each chapter has a glossary but the book lacks an index. Even though many topics generally considered to be encompassed in Human Biology are included here, the treatment of them is generally unintegrated into the larger contexts of evolutionary biology, ecology, human life cycle adaptation, and normal physiological adaptations. Areas that are left out of this text include: Principles of Evolution chapter in which one would have desired to have a discussion of the important topic of individual variation in anatomy and physiology within populations, effects of natural selection, especially as related to health and disease, biogeography, and the origins of life and the human lineage Development and Aging is an area that is not treated in this book, including embryogenesis, placental structure and function, the human life cycle, life span, and congenital malformations Principles of Ecology are not touched upon here, including structure of human populations, effects of population growth, effects of air and water quality on human health, human land use and biology, and human effects of the loss of global biodiversity. The topics that are covered can be uneven. For example, there are in-depth details given on the Scientific Method, on Myocardial Infarction, and in lengthy topic boxes on selected careers in health care, while many applications to contemporary research issues in Human Biology, normal heart innervation in physiological adaptation, and other career options that also draw upon Human Biology are not included.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

The book is authoritative and strongest in biochemistry and cell biology. It is weaker on evolutionary theory. For example, in Chapter 2 the first Critical Thinking Question deals with "adaptation" (read "adaptability") in responding to olfactory cues in the context of smelling fire in a residence hall versus around a campfire, after an earlier definition of "adaptation" as a purely physical/biological evolved characteristic. Special Senses are not dealt with in the book until Chapter 18. A student would find this confusing. Content is least accurate in the realm of Anatomy. There are a number of minor errors that are perhaps just more distracting than of major impact. However, these are most noticeable in: Chapter 9 on the Heart where, for example, the legend to Figure 1 contradicts the figure by confusing the base of the heart with its apex the three layers of the pericardium are misidentified and the cardiac veins are misidentified as "coronary" veins (confusing them with coronary arteries). Chapter 11 on the Respiratory System where, for example, the nasopharynx is incorrectly said to be flanked by the conchae (they flank the nasal cavity) and the laryngopharynx is said to conduct air (not unless one is swallowing air). Chapter 15 on the Reproductive System notes that a lack of testosterone leads to scrotal tissue developing into "labia" when "labia majora" should have been specified to differentiate from labia-minora-homologous hypospadias. Chapter 16 on the Skeletal System figures the "metaphysis" of long bones but leaves this important structure out of the text.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Most content covered is up-to-date. One exception was the use of the old term "solar plexus" in Chapter 18 in relation to the sympathetic nervous system, but the conceptual context is appropriate and the term can be readily corrected. The text does not deal as thoroughly with Genomics as one would like even though there are lengthy discussions of the traditional genetic topics of mitosis and meiosis and DNA replication. These sections could be revised to include more recent research findings, for example, on oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, and homeobox genes.

In general the writing is clear, concise, and accessible. There is good use of analogy to get concepts across. I thought using ATP "dollars" to pay the cell's "energy bill" was effective. Difficult concepts such as acid-base balance in Chapter 3 and glycolysis and the Krebs Cycle in Chapter 7 were well done.

There is some confusion over the "levels of complexity" on which the text is based. Figure 1 in Chapter 1 shows 6 levels but in the text 10 levels are discussed. The reader is left to ponder whether subatomic particles or atoms are the starting point, where "organelles" fit in exactly, and is there a difference between the molecular level and macromolecular level. This problem could be addressed with a fuller discussion of how these levels historically evolved, as we now know more clearly from the molecular clock, astrobiology, and the genomic "Tree of Life" work. There are minor technical issues with text consistency. The references to figures in the various chapters vary. Some chapters have only "figure" to designate call-outs while other chapters have numbered figures. In one case a chapter (Chapter 8) had "objectives. The other chapters did not. Some chapters had a summary of what a student would learn, roughly tantamount to objectives. Others did not. Questions at the end of chapters were usually "review" questions but some chapters had "critically thinking questions."

This book is quite modular in that the chapters can stand by themselves. The sequence that systems are taught in a particular course could readily use most chapters in a different arrangement.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

There is a logic to the organization of organic levels in the text, particularly the initial chapters on molecules and cells which are clearly the simplest levels. The rationale of why the digestive system is the first system to be discussed (Chapter 5) is less obvious but each system is largely treated by itself so the sequence of systems was probably considered not of great concern. I was surprised somewhat to come upon a chapter on Mitosis and Meiosis (Chapter 13), at the the cellular level, in between chapters on the Urinary and Reproductive organ systems, until I realized there was a reproductive connection.

The text states that one of its goals is accessibility by students. The art in this text is quite clear, interpretable, and well done. However, there were significant problems with the QR coded links generally termed "Concepts in Action." Not all chapters had these but I checked out each one in the text and found several that did not load. Several loaded but had no content. This can be distracting.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I encountered no issues with grammar. Although not technically "grammar," I noted a few typographical errors, the most obvious of which was "Antidiuretic Hormone" misspelled in section 13.3. It is also worth noting for correction in section 9.1 that "kardia" is Greek, not Latin.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

There is nothing that I would consider culturally insensitive in the text.

This book would be most suited to a Biology Department course geared to premedical students because it tracks the traditional topics covered in the medical school curriculum. Some students, depending on their backgrounds, may struggle with the chemical, genetic, anatomical, and/or physiological material. An instructor using this textbook for a Human Biology class but desiring a more expansive biological purview that would encompass ev-devo, ecological, and genomic perspectives would have to provide this content on their own.


Gametes, or sex cells, exist in two varieties within the body: sperm and eggs. These cells are formed by the process of meiosis within the ovaries and testes.

The union of these two types of cells initiates the process of reproduction and the formation of a new individual.

Both male (sperm) and female (egg) sex cells contain genetic material (called DNA) and the combination of the genetic material results in an individual genetically different from the parents.

Phagocyte Deficiencies

Steven M. Holland , Gülbü Uzel , in Clinical Immunology (Fifth Edition) , 2019

Production of Macrophages and Granulocytes

The pluripotent stem cell gives rise to the myeloid stem cell from which the colony-forming unit granulocyte/erythrocyte/macrophage/megakaryocyte (CFU-GEMM) is derived. Among the growth factors that are influential at this step are stem cell factor (SCF), interleukin-3 (IL-3), and granulocyte macrophage–colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). 2 CFU-GEMM further differentiates into the colony-forming unit–granulocyte macrophage (CFU-GM) under the continuing influence of these growth factors. The colony-forming unit–granulocyte (CFU-G), a neutrophil lineage committed precursor, is derived from CFU-GM under the control of IL-3, GM-CSF, and granulocyte–colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). The myeloblast is formed from the CFU-G under the influence of GM-CSF and G-CSF and is the first morphologically distinct cell of the neutrophil lineage. Promyelocyte, myelocyte, metamyelocyte, band form, and mature neutrophil formation follow consecutively under the ongoing control of G-CSF and GM-CSF. The maturation process from stem cell to the myelocyte stage takes 4–6 days and an additional 5–7 days for the myelocyte to form the mature neutrophil, all in bone marrow.

Macrophage differentiation is similar to granulocyte differentiation in many respects. CFU-GM differentiates into the colony-forming unit–macrophage (CFU-M) followed by the formation of the monoblast, promonocyte, and monocyte under the influence of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF). 3 After monocytes are released into blood, they circulate for 1–4 days before entering tissues, where they further differentiate into macrophages.


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